My heroine & guruette:Alicia Bay Laurel #AliciaBayLaurel . In 1970 she wrote the handwritten, hand-drawn Living On The Earth. In recently re-reading it I became very unhappy with myself. So today I sought redemption. I split Russian olive firewood. I had forgotten the Zen of wood chopping, hurt my shoulder, regrouped and finished in the breath of it. I turned off the furnace and the fire is built and ready. Humble but proud, I then made my first attempt at homemade hummus…it turned out amazing!! Im adding avocado and will try very hard to not eat the entire batch for dinner!!! Next: making flatbread from scratch. Don’t get me wrong; there will always be a grocery list (especially with our growing season!!) This was a really good day. Tomorrow: More wood; buffaloberry jam; plumbing new rain/irrigation barrels… as the next sub-freezing snow event floats in. (My deepest thanks to Don who replaced the old busted ax handle and sharpened the blade.🙏)
“Each plant in each specific location under each specific moment of conditions responds specifically. You can work to create the best set of circumstances to support and encourage the best ecology for that plant even to its best death. Study in-depth or take a seed and stick it in the ground and water it. Then observe, learn, try again. When you figure it out the 8 year cycle of grasshoppers will pop. You will do everything you can and still be overwhelmed. You will wait a year and start over. Thus is nature. Live IN it. Don’t get too cerebral. Stay light on your feet and ready to learn. Or else you will miss the important stuff. Then pick that sweet ripe berry or grape, eat it and smile. The End… and The Beginning.”
The life of plants is not a mystery, but it is completely enmeshing. I believe that all approaches to horticulture should be held up to a very wise bit of advice:”Do not believe in what you have heard; do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations; do not believe anything because it is rumored and spoken of by many; do not believe merely because the written statement of some old sage is produced; do not believe in conjectures; do not believe merely in the authority of your teachers and elders. After observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it”. Who knew Gautama Buddha was a gardener… in other words, take that seed, stick it in the soil, tend to it and see what happens. Oh and don’t wash your hands right away. Moon or no moon.
Clear a corner. The greenhouse is a refuge, a temple, a secret garden, a retreat, an atelier, a salon, a wine tasting room, a place to watch rain drops run down the poly or glass, a snake and spider bug hunt, a place to bury your hands in potting soil, a biome of life… through the looking glass. Wine spritz, spiced cannabis tea, iced Turkish coffee… you’ve created another world. How will you populate it…
All Together Now: Free Remote Consults Beginning March 30
Text, Email or Messenger & Get Discounts
Every spring I get texts (got one today!!), emails and phone calls with questions on plants, gardens, water, soil and design projects.
Starting March 30, 2020 I will be taking questions and brainstorming by text, email, Facebook Messenger or by message from the The Refuge Permaculture Center website (www.tarafarmandnursery.com).
You can attach photos or videos to texts and emails (bigger files are better on emails.)
[“I had leaves! Where did my leaves go??” “Is the ground wet?” “Yes.” “What do you see in the mud?” “Oh. Deer tracks. Never mind. Thanks.” ]
The NEW part is that everyone I work with remotely will also receive a 15% discount on the following:
Plants and Seeds from the Nursery
On Site Consultations
Concept and Design Work
Classes (except for OLLI classes through Casper College)
Full Design and Installation Planning
So any time after 8:00 a.m. on March 30, 2020 reach out! I will answer your question or get back to you for discussion as soon as possible. I will then add your name and contact information to the discount and email list so that you can receive messages about upcoming events.
Visits to The Refuge: Later this summer (depending on the status of my little friends the grasshoppers) I will be opening up for small tours – either individuals or up to five in a group; (hugging or kissing of plants only!!)
“What About Classes?”: I am also working on adding narration to some of my PowerPoint presentations and packaging them for viewing online. The cost of access will include the above discounts as well as free remote consults.
“Will You Be At Natrona County Master Gardeners Farmers Market This Year?”: If things continue to go well, I am still hoping to set up a plant sale in town late this summer or early fall (which is still a great time to plant perennial shrubs and grasses.) It may not be at the Ag Ext building, but I will post locations. (Possibly Tractor Supply if public gatherings seem safe by then.)
The Earth Abides, and so will we, with planning, creativity and calm.
Duck egg / asparagus / mushroom / mozzarella scramble last night. It was the last of the 2019 frozen asparagus; the duck eggs were fresh. (I’m getting a dozen every couple days and sharing them with my neighbor.) The ducks are presently cultivating the Meditation Garden, the little vineyard and the the Ribes Patch (gooseberries and currants). I will pull the ducks out in a week or so because with a little bit more moisture the asparagus will start to break through. Ducks spot the tender spears before I do and nibble them right down below the ground surface. Here we take a close look at asparagus – a perennial vegetable that grows really well here, liking alkaline soils, and hates to be moved. Nothing like fresh asparagus! NOTE: I didn’t mention it in the video but don’t blanch the asparagus before you freeze it. That makes it mush when defrosted. Just wash with very cold water, chop into pieces or leave as spears, seal well removing all air from the freezer bag (or use a vacuum process) and get it into the freezer quick. To preserve for a few days use, make a fresh cut at the base of the spear and arrange the spears in a Mason or other jar with cold water, just like a flower arrangement. The spears will continue to “drink” for a day or so. Enjoy!
Between heavy, wet spring snow, monsoonal downpours and temperatures changing 40 degrees in a matter of hours, there are many things to be done outside. This is your Un-COVID source of calming, productive, earthy exercise and information. This was an easy project, although there is a little more securing to be done before the first 125 mph micro-burst comes along. Living a mile high with mountain gaps to intensify storm activity is a real challenge, not to mention the salty, clay soil; quick-draining-drying sand; and mineral heavy ground water. But that is what gets us out there every year: the challenge and the results. Step into the nursery for a look at a simple project that may help to increase productivity through a little inexpensive protection.
In the Great High and Dry of Central Wyoming (USA) one of the first plants to wake up will be the asparagus. Usually in April. it is so difficult to wait until a dozen or so spears poke up through the soil. I only harvest a few of the new spears, and then daily based on how many healthy spears break through. During the season I only harvest half of what is produced. The rest I leave for the fern texture , the flow movement, seed for future plants. The other two plants that wake up about the same time are the currants ( primarily Ribes nigra “Black Currant”) producing shy, light violet, bell-shaped flowers, and Rhubarb, unfurling dark green crinkley leaves. If the weather holds in the 50s for a week or so at this time, the bumble bees will come out of hibernation and shake the currant bushes with the hum of their wings. These early perennial fruits and vegetables can be the only food you will get from your perennial gardens in some years. Farmers Almanac says this year will be wet and cool. If that comes to pass other fruits like chokecherries and first crop of everbearing raspberry may not even show. If a fruit shrub is happy in spring – wet and cool – it often will not produce stress hormones which cause flowers to be produced. Without flowers, no fruit. Let the soil dry out before watering in a wet, cool spring. It is so difficult to wait for all of it, to be patient. I’m trying an heirloom chickpea to make hummus next winter and I cant even start them inside until May … breathe, draw pictures, create plans, be ready. ** Scheduling Garden Consults, Classes and Plant Sales very, very soon…..
Further Tales From The Refuge: Recently someone asked me how winter was going at the farm. Well, actually winter just officially got here. Hasn’t seemed like it since fall. Some folks I know have measured what they think are record-breaking snow amounts in the Casper area for the late fall. The biggest problem with snow events like this is the snow drifts that form in three places between my cabin and Ten Mile Road. I can see the road; I can see it’s clear; but I can’t get there. I have to rely on others to help move the drifts and that is never comfortable for me. It was during one such drift problem that my furnace decided it was lonely and needed a nice man to pay some attention to it. I dealt with two repairmen and both were amazing. They were from Jim’s and Sheet Metal Specialties. And even on my present pre-Social Security budget the cost was completely reasonable. I am hoping that the regular temperature dips below freezing will kill off the majority of the grasshopper eggs. Let’s not go there. All the indoor projects are in-progress. The enclosed porch is now a cozy, sun-filled place for coffee in the morning with a view of the mountain. The kitchen is getting a face lift. And all of the logs inside the cabin are being cleaned with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I’ve used the woodstove more this year than ever before, going through all of the newspaper and firewood I had stored. When the weather allows, I drive out to the greasewood and collect dead and dry material. This reduces the fuel loading in the wilder areas of the property, and it doesn’t take very much of this wood to heat the stove up for the evening. Once the stove is heated and the flames have died I close all of the dampers and flue and keep the fan on. This keeps the cabin at about 64 degrees until bed. The ice hasn’t been good to Bridget either. She injured her front leg so she is spending this winter in the pen in the shed. Rough life: she gets cracked corn, COB and MSM with grass hay in the morning and grains and an alfalfa flake in the evening. I clean the pen and massage the leg and have placed an ACE bandage above the knee to give some support. Some days she stands on it just fine; other days she puts little or no weight on it all. Soft tissue damage is a long heal for anyone. I’m also using this ‘quality time’ when she is happily eating her cow candy to trim all of her hooves. But she won’t be going out as long as there is ice in the corral. I’m certain she will be a princess cow by the time this is all over. Maybe I should cut back on the massages and hair brushing. Those horns disqualify her for My Little Pony. As I do not have a water hydrant inside the shed, I carry a 5 gallon bucket to fill her tub twice a day. Now the whole point to this is that next week I will be 66 years old. I have been graced and blessed – so far – with good health. I am doing yoga every morning to warm up; ten pushups; planks for core work; jogging a quarter mile on the drive (weather permitting), climbing fences and opening gates, pitching hay twice a day, feeding and watering the ducks and geese and tending to Bridget. I wish I had a dime for every time someone has said “You’re a survivor; you are so self-sufficient!” Even I can’t do it all. I get hurt. I get exhausted. I castigate myself for not doing more, or doing it all better. But for now I cannot see doing anything else. I’m sure that one of these days I will be found, face down, frozen in a snowdrift (Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.) And when that happens please, please, please refrain from saying – all of you, at all times – that I died doing what I loved. I hate hearing that. There isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t want to die, ready to go, in a comfortable bed, tired, easing into the dust from which we came. Survivors only say that to hide their own discomfort. It’s 4pm. Time to tell the birds to go into their houses, pitch some more hay to the Black Angus girlz and pamper Bridget. That’s pretty much the day here until March. Soon cabin fever will set in heavily and either I will dream up some new classes for the spring or … fall face down in a snow drift… wish me luck.